Mookie Betts

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Markus Lynn Betts

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Biographical Information[edit]

Diminutive Mookie Betts, was a 5th-round choice by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 amateur draft, out of high school in Tennessee. After signing, he only played one professional game, going 2 for 4 for the GCL Red Sox. His true debut came in 2012, as the starting second baseman for the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League. He played 71 games, hitting .267 while scoring 34 runs and driving in 31 and stealing 20 bases in 24 attempts. He split 2013 between the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League and the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, hitting a combined .314 in 127 games; he was particularly good at the higher level, with a batting average of .341. He also showed some power for the first time, with 36 doubles, 4 triples and 15 homers to form a slugging percentage of .506. He was prolific in reaching base with an OBP of .417, scored 93 runs and collected 38 stolen bases to place himself among the Red Sox's top future prospects.

Mookie broke through to the major leagues in 2014 after impressing in spring training and starting the season in AA with the Portland Sea Dogs. He hit a ringing .355/.443/.551 in 54 games to earn his first shot at Fenway Park. The Sox also had him start to play in center field at Portland, in anticipation that he could be a future starter there, following the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury via free agency. He moved up to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox at the beginning of June and made his debut with the Red Sox on June 29th, going 1 for 3 while playing right field in an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees. He stayed with the team until mid-July, hitting .235, then was sent back to the minors for additional seasoning. He continued to hit well with Pawtucket, at a .335 clip in 45 games, and went back to Boston to stay on August 1st. He played regularly until the end of the year, first in center field, and then back at second base the last couple of weeks after the arrival of Cuban defector Rusney Castillo. He raised his average to .291 for the season in 52 games, with 12 doubles, 5 homers and 21 walks, for an OPS+ of 128. That made him one of the most interesting stories on a team that badly under-performed, finishing in last place one year after winning the 2013 World Series.

With 2014's starting center fielder, Jackie Bradley having struggled badly, writing himself out of the team's plans for the immediate future, Betts headed to spring training in 2015 with the inside track at taking over the job, although Rusney Castillo had also impressed during his late-season trial. Castillo was promptly sidelined by an injury early in camp. Betts made the Grapefruit League his personal stage and, after two weeks, was hitting around .450 with power while flashing some brilliant defensive work. He won the starting job in center field and started the season with 2 hits, including a homer and 2 runs scored, against the Philadelphia Phillies in a 8-0 win on Opening Day, April 6th. He cooled down a bit the next few days but had another epic game on April 13th, against the Washington Nationals, in the team's home opener, when he went 2-for-4 with a triple, scored twice and drove in four in a 9-4 Boston win. He also robbed Bryce Harper of a homer with a great catch in the top of the first, and stole his first two bases of the season on the same play in the bottom of the inning, with the Nats using a defensive shift against David Ortiz leaving third base uncovered. He scored the game's first run when Ortiz followed with a single. On July 28th, he almost made an amazing catch to rob Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox of a home run, jumping and falling over the center field fence at Fenway Park; however, he dropped the ball after coming down head first on the other side of the wall, and the hit was ruled a homer. He suffered a concussion on the attempt and was placed on the disabled list. He played 145 games that season, hitting .291 with 42 doubles, 8 triples and 18 homers. He finished third in the American League in doubles and 9th in triples.

In 2016, he was the Red Sox starting right fielder and lead-off hitter, with Bradley having finally established himself as the starting center fielder, giving the Sox excellent outfield defense in addition to some strong hitting. He got off to an excellent start, helping put the Sox in an early division lead. On May 31st, he had the first three-homer game of his career in a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He led off with a homer against Kevin Gausman and Dustin Pedroia immediately followed with another long ball to set the tone, then Betts added two more blasts and accounted for 5 RBI. He was leading the AL in at-bats, runs and triples at that point of the season. He followed his three-homer game by going deep in his first two at bats against Baltimore the next day, giving him five homers in seven at bats. In spite of his heroics, the Red Sox went down, 13-9. He was named to play in the All-Star Game for the first time, then was the AL Player of the Month for July, on the strength of a .368 average, 10 doubles, 5 homers, 15 runs scored and as many RBI. On August 14th, he had his second three-homer game of the year and also drove in a career-high 8 runs in a 16-2 beatdown of the Arizona Diamondbacks. That made him the second player in Red Sox history to have a pair of three-homer games in the same season, the first having been Ted Williams. He followed that performance with a two-homer, five-RBI game in a 5-3 win against the Orioles on August 16th, continuing his dominance of the Sox's close rivals during the season. On August 29th, he hit his 30th home run, becoming the third player in Red Sox history to have a 30-homer season before turning 24, after Williams and Tony Conigliaro. For the season, he batted .318 with 214 hits, 122 runs scored and an MLB-leading 359 total bases.

Betts continued to hit well in 2017. On June 14th, he had a two-homer game against the Philadelphia Phillies, then had a career game on July 2nd at the Rogers Centre against the Toronto Blue Jays. Batting lead-off, he hit a pair of homers and drove in 8 runs to lead the Red Sox to a 15-1 beatdown, completing a three-game sweep. It was only the fourth time in history that a lead-off man had driven that many runs in a game. His batting average fell to .264 in 153 games, with 24 homers, 101 runs scored and 102 RBI. His drop in production paralleled that of the entire team, but nonetheless, Boston repeated as division champions. For the second straight year, they exited the postseason early, bowing to the eventual World Champions, the Houston Astros, in four games in the Division Series. Betts went 5 for 16 with a pair of doubles in the series.

In 2018, he got off to a fast start, as the team won 9 of its first 10 games. On April 10th, in the first meeting of the year with the Yankees, he went 4 for 4 with 5 runs scored and a grand slam in a 14-1 rout. On April 17th, he led off a game against hyped Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher Shohei Ohtani with a homer, then added another solo shot off Luke Bard in the 3rd and a third one off Cam Bedrosian in the 8th to lead Boston to a 10-1 win. It was the third three-homer game of his career and it did not take long for him to record his fourth, tying the Red Sox all-time record held by Ted Williams: on May 2nd, he hit three solo shots off Danny Duffy of the Kansas City Royals, the last one breaking a 4-4 tie in the 7th to lead Boston to a 5-4 win. At 26, he was the youngest player ever to have four such games. The following day, he tied another franchise record by hitting his 69th homer from the leadoff spot in an 11-5 loss to the Texas Rangers; Dom DiMaggio had held the mark, but had needed almost three times as many games as Mookie to set it. His MVP-caliber season hit a snag on June 1st when he had to go on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, retroactive to a couple of days earlier. He was expected to miss only the minimum amount of time allowed and indeed was reactivated on June 11th. He had another great game on July 12th, shortly after having been voted a starter in the All-Star Game, when he drove in 5 of the Sox's 6 runs in a 6-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Four of the RBI came via a grand slam off J.A. Happ in the fourth on the 13th pitch of an epic at-bat. It was the most pitches before a grand slam since Gary Scott had also hit one on the 13th pitch back in April 1992. On July 27th, he added another feat to his bulging résumé, the first walk-off homer of his career: it came in the 10th inning against the Minnesota Twins and came after Craig Kimbrel had blown a 2-1 9th-inning lead and Rafael Devers sent the game into extra innings with a homer in the bottom of the 9th. Mookie's blast off Matt Belisle gave the Red Sox a 4-3 win. On August 9th, he hit for the cycle for the first time of his career, and the first one by anyone in the majors this season, as he led off the game against the Blue Jays with a single off Ryan Borucki, then added a triple in the 2nd and a double in the 4th, also off Borucki. After drawing a walk in the 6th, he came up again in the 9th against Ken Giles and hit a solo homer to complete the 22nd cycle in team history. It was in vain, however, as Boston lost the game, 8-5, a rare loss at a time when they had been steamrolling all opponents since the beginning of July. On September 26th, he stole his 30th base to become a member of the 30-30 club for the first time, joining Jacoby Ellsbury who was the only Red Sox player to have achieved the feat before him. He finished the season with a batting average of .346 in 136 games, netting him his first batting title; he also led the AL in slugging (.640) and runs scored (129). While he was not overpowering in the postseason, he still contributed to the Red Sox winning their first title since 2013 as they breezed to a World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, losing just three games over the three rounds of the postseason. After the season, he was voted the winner of the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Despite Betts having a superlative season as the lead-off hitter in 2018, the Red Sox announced that December that they planned to shift him to the second spot of the batting order in 2019, with #2 hitter Andrew Benintendi batting lead-off. This was based on data that showed that a team should use its most productive hitter in the second slot, to maximize scoring opportunities. On January 11th, he signed a one-year, $20 million contract with the Red Sox, avoiding salary arbitration. Still, the amount was the largest ever given a player in his second year of arbitration eligibility, and even topped any amount ever given to a player in his third such year. The Red Sox started the year slowly, which led to Betts reintegrating his familiar lead-off spot. His numbers were not as good as those of his MVP-winning season, but he still returned to the All-Star Game for the fourth time. On July 26th, he had the fifth three-homer game of his career when he hit solo shots in his first three at-bats in a 10-5 win over the Yankees. He also hit a double in the 6th to finish 4-for-5. In 150 games, he batted .295 with a major league-leading 135 runs scored, 29 home runs and 80 RBI.

Following the 2019 season, rumors emerged that the Red Sox were open to trading him, with the Los Angeles Dodgers mentioned as a possible destination. He was entering the final year of his contract before free agency, and the Sox were looking to reduce their payroll in order to avoid some of the penalties related to the luxury tax that they had had to pay in recent years. On January 10th, he signed a one-year contract for the upcoming season for $27 million, setting a new record for the highest contract awarded to a player eligible for salary arbitration. The rumored trade finally happened on February 4th when the Sox sent him to the Dodgers, along with pitcher David Price, in return for outfielder Alex Verdugo and pitcher Kenta Maeda; the Sox then immediately flipped Maeda to the Minnesota Twins in return for prospect Brusdar Graterol, in what was clearly aimed at getting them under the luxury tax threshold, at the cost of short-term competitiveness. For the Dodgers, it was yet another sign that they were all-in to win the championship that had eluded them since 1988. The deal almost fell through because of concerns by Boston over Graterol's health, but changes were worked out on February 9th to allow it to go through, with Graterol ending up with the Dodgers, and Boston receiving a couple more prospects from L.A. in Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

The day before the long delayed start of the 2020 season, on July 22nd, the Dodgers and Betts came to an agreement on a massive twelve-year contract extension. While exact terms were not revealed, it was estimated to be worth around $365 million. The two sides were apparently close to an agreement in March, but the coronavirus pandemic had put the talks on hold for three months. He had his figurative "coming-out party" on July 31st in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, putting all of his talents on display as he threw a baserunner out at third base in the 1st, hit a solo homer in the 4th, drove in another run with a single in the 5th, made a tremendous running catch in the 6th, then stretched a routine single into a double with a great run in the 9th. Bit for all his heroics, the Dodgers lost the game, 5-3. On August 13th, he had the sixth three-homer game of his career in an 11-2 win over the San Diego Padres; that tied him for most all time with Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa, although Betts had done so in just 813 games, while Mize and Sosa needed 1,884 and 2,364 respectively. On August 23rd, he became the first player in Dodgers history to homer twice and also steal two bases in a game, doing so in an 11-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.

In addition to baseball, Mookie is also an excellent bowler and is a member of the PBA. He took part in the 2017 World Series of Bowling and tossed a perfect 300 game during the qualifying rounds. In February 2019, he won the CP3 Celebrity Invitational (which is not a sanctioned PBA event, but an exhibition), partnering with future PBA Hall of Famer Tommy Jones; they defeated pro football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens & PBA legend Pete Weber in the finals. He participated in the 2020 PBA Hall of Fame Classic, his first official PBA event since 2017, having been granted a Commissioner's exemption. His main goal was to not finish in last place, which he accomplished, finishing in 48th place in the field of 56 bowlers. He just missed his secondary goal of averaging par for the tournament (which would be a 200 average), averaging a little over 198.

Betts is a cousin of Terry Shumpert and Nick Shumpert. He is also a distant cousin of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 4-time AL All-Star (2016-2019)
  • 2018 AL MVP
  • 4-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2016-2019/RF)
  • 3-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2016, 2018 & 2019)
  • AL Batting Average Leader (2018)
  • AL Slugging Percentage Leader (2018)
  • AL At-Bats Leader (2016)
  • 2-time AL Runs Scored Leader (2018 & 2019)
  • AL Total Bases Leader (2016)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2016-2019)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2016 & 2018)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (2016 & 2017)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 4 (2016-2019)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (2016)
  • Won one World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018


AL MVP
2017 2018 2019
José Altuve Mookie Betts Mike Trout

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ian Browne: "Betts the story of spring for Red Sox: After speeding through organization, center fielder impresses at plate, in field", mlb.com, March 19, 2015. [1]
  • Ian Browne: "Betts finishes 2nd to Trout in AL MVP voting", ',mlb.com, November 17, 2016. [2]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Betts taking Red Sox Nation by storm", mlb.com, March 23, 2015. [3]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Mookie the embodiment of a perfectionist", mlb.com, February 20, 2017. [4]
  • Ken Gurnick: "Dodgers sign Mookie Betts to 12-year deal", mlb.com, July 22, 2020. [5]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts caps historic season with AL Most Valuable Player award", USA Today, November 15, 2018. [6]
  • Gabe Lacques: "For Mookie Betts, a glorious run with an unsatisfying end in Boston", USA Today, February 5, 2020. [7]
  • Mike Lupica: "Buck on Betts: 'Best right fielder I've ever seen': Red Sox right fielder putting himself into AL MVP Award discussion", mlb.com, April 20, 2018. [8]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Here's why the Red Sox's Mookie Betts deserves to be American League MVP", USA Today Sports, October 5, 2016. [9]
  • Jordan Wilson: "Betts' bat continues to be bright spot for Sox", mlb.com, June 20, 2015. [10]
  • Bill Vint: "PBA Spare Shots: Boston Red Sox Star Mookie Betts’ Skills Continue to Impress Fellow Competitors", pba.com, January 17, 2020 [11]

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